Welcome to Pistoulet, a farmhouse in the southwest region of France.
However, this farm is much more than a place.
However, this farm is much more than a place.
The Secrets of Pistoulet is the first in a series of charming books by Jana Kolpen and designed by Mary Tiegreen. This little gem captured the imaginations of the Novel Bakers, a small group of friends, readers and cooks: a quiet life, Home Is Where the Boat Is, Once Upon a Plate, and Rattlebridge Farm.
We've devoted the week to explore and cook our way through these novels . . .
Let's begin with Pistoulet.
Some people refer to the farm as "the Place of Secrets."
Pistoulet is a healing place for world-weary hearts.
"Hidden from most everything, Pistoulet is an unknown paradise....Everyone
who passes through the farm has a story which unfolds. All who
spend time at Pistoulet leave with their hearts and minds transformed.
Some never leave."
The story begins with Mademoiselle J.
When she arrives at the farm, she is greeted by Marcel, a huge
But not even Marcel can lift Mademoiselle J.'s spirits.
"She was feeling withered and wounded, and without a smile."
Mademoiselle soon discovers that Pistoulet is a magical place where frogs sing in the trees and a chicken lays golden eggs.
Even the snails "blend into the scenery until they decide to appear."
Each day Mademoiselle J. rides a bicycle to the market, picking through the ripe eggplants and tomatoes. Before returning home, she dashes into the cheese shop for a wedge of Brebis.
"Some might say her passion for cooking is a bit extreme."
She has come to the right place, because her hosts, Madame Claude and Monsieur Andre,
are intuitive cooks. They can look all the way into the backs of Mademoiselle J.'s eyes and see that she is at the end of her emotional tether. The hosts know exactly how to nourish her soul, but they need special herbs--these are kept in a special blue box.
It has a star engraved on the lid.
When the sun climbs into the highest place in the sky, the hosts set a table in the garden,
adding cheerful pottery and a sunflower bouquet.
Menus are created with great care, and each one is tailored to the guest.
Madame Claude's cheese platters are unique (as is the Madame herself).
They calm wild, tangled thoughts and induce happiness.
Potage of Passion is a specialty at Pistoulet, and it must be "served with discretion," as it has been known to induce hot flashes, a galloping pulse rate, and a rush of emotions.
It can even cause a guest to "fall in love with the cook!"
"Passionate choices have potent consequences."
-- a comment on Pistoulet's recipe card.
This potage is best served with garlicky, herbal "Celestial Croutons."
It's traditional at Pistoulet to cut the croutons into half-moon and star shapes.
One guest, known as the "Odd, Artful Gentleman," proposes to Mademoiselle J. after eating this soup.
(She gently refuses.)
The Potage of Babble is another Pistoulet favorite.
This soup is made from the freshest leeks and potatoes, with pinches of basil and garlic.
It has an unsettling side-effect--whoever consumes the soup might become loquacious.
In fact, the recipe comes with a warning:
"When you speak, be sure to speak the truth."
Homemade bread and rosemary butter are farmhouse favorites,
enjoyed by all of the guests.
Dessert is a special event.
The Tourte of Friendship is made with farm eggs, butter and almonds.
It reminded me of a soft biscotti, with a dense rich crust, a melty center, and just-right sweetness.
Serve with rich, thick whipped cream.
Pistoulet has a remedy for whatever ails you.
However, the cures aren't traditional.
The "Charm for Prosperity" might not fill your coffers, but you soul will be enriched.
It's wise to remember that "prosperity comes in many forms."
-- Note on the recipe card, Pistoulet.
When Mademoiselle J. left Pistoulet,
her heart ran over with peace and happiness.
She couldn't stop smiling.
And she was ready for a new adventure.
The Secrets of Pistoulet touches on themes of hope, transformation, and hidden joys.
Secret joys are everywhere if you know how to really look at the world.
If life is a series of journeys, then don't be afraid to take a detour.
And don't be afraid to take a healing break from the mad dash of daily living.
It's never too late to find joy.
My visit to France has come to an end,
but a dazzling array of adventures await you with the Novel Bakers.
I can't wait to see what Jain, Mary, and Mari have created.
Won't you come with me?
and Once Upon a Plate.
The Novel Bakers will return on Wednesday, June 26th, with a visit to Villa Della Luna in Italy,
then we will move to Ireland on Friday, June 28th.
See you there!